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Vivo U20 review: the next budget champ?

In September, Vivo launched its online-exclusive U-series of smartphones, starting with the budget Vivo U10. The U10 was an attempt by the brand to grab a slice of the lucrative online market in India, and featured compelling specs at a competitive price. Just a couple of months later, Vivo has dropped the second phone in the series, the Vivo U20 and it seems like a worthy successor to the U10. I received the smartphone ahead of the launch in India, and have been using for a while now. So, is this the next budget champ? Let’s find out.

Design and display

In the design department, Vivo U20 is a far cry from the slab-like design of its predecessor. The new phone gets rid of the wavy lines on the back and comes in solid colourways, which form an S-shaped gradient when light hits the panel at an angle. Additionally, the U20 has slightly curved edges on the back, making it comfortable to hold for longer durations.

Vivo has also changed the positioning of the cameras, as all three lenses as well as the LED flash now sit inside the oblong pill-shaped module with a gold trim around. There’s a similar squircle fingerprint scanner towards the middle, but the gold Vivo logo has been moved to the bottom left corner and is placed vertically. The fingerprint scanner and integrated face unlock are both fast and accurate.

Speaking of face unlock, the feature makes use of the selfie camera housed in the waterdrop notch on the front. Thanks to the notch, the display offers an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 90.3 percent. The display itself measures 6.53-inches and offers FHD+ (2,340 x 1,080 pixels) screen resolution. That’s not all, as you also get Widevine L1 certification to enjoy high-resolution videos on your favourite streaming platforms. During my time with the phone, the only hiccup I faced was lower brightness levels when I was out and about.

On the sides, the Vivo U20 has a dual-SIM card tray with a dedicated microSD card slot on the left and physical buttons (volume and power) on the right. At the bottom, you will find the 3.5mm audio jack, speaker, and it pains me to say, a micro-USB port. Considering that many budget phones are moving towards USB-C these days, it is disappointing to see Vivo use the outdated micro-USB standard.

Cameras

The Vivo U20 swaps the 13MP primary camera of the U10 for a higher resolution 16MP snapper, but retains the other two lenses. The main sensor is joined by an 8MP super wide-angle lens and 2MP super macro camera. Vivo has also upgraded the selfie camera from 8MP to 16MP on the latest U-series phone. You get features like HDR, live filters, pro mode, timelapse video, 4K video recording and more. However, the camera app leaves something to be desired. I struggled to find the options for ultra-wide angle, super macro and bokeh mode on the camera. As it turns out, there is a small icon resembling a lens shutter in the bottom right corner of the viewfinder, and tapping on it pops-up the option for all three modes.

As for the image quality, in daylight, the camera clicked pictures that were well balanced in terms of dynamic range and exposure. There were sufficient details in shadows as well as highlights, resulting in some very aesthetic images.

The ultra-wide angle camera manages to get a lot more in the frame with minimal fish-eye distortion and that’s a plus for a budget phone. The macro mode, on the other hand, suffers due to the low-resolution sensor. While it manages to capture pleasing close-up shots, if you go pixel peeping you will find that details are fuzzy. As for the night mode, the images I captured were good-looking without much noise. However, excessive software processing softens details to the extent that it looks artificial. Interestingly, I found that the camera captures better low-light shots in normal mode than in night mode. The portrait mode also captures good pictures with clear edges, and just enough blur in the background to look realistic.

Coming to the front camera, the 16MP shooter captures detailed selfies that are ideal for social media. There is a slight saturation boost which imparts a reddish hue to the skin tone, which some might prefer and others might not. The portrait mode also works well, though I did notice slight bleeding around the edges.

Performance, software and battery

While the Vivo U10 featured a Snapdragon 665 SoC, the U20 upgrades to a more powerful Snapdragon 675 AIE  processor which is also seen on more premium devices from the brand like the Vivo V15 Pro and V17 Pro. The phone comes with up to 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, however, I got the base variant for review, which offers 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. Out of the box, the U20 offers close to 48GB out of the box, which is below the standard amount offered by most other phones.

In terms of gaming, the Vivo U20 started PUBG in medium graphics by default. There were balanced visuals while gaming and very rare instances of lagging. I would suggest switching to low graphics settings to experience the best gameplay. Call of Duty: Mobile runs without any issues on the phone as it’s less demanding when it comes to consuming CPU resources.

The U20 runs FunTouch OS based on Android 9 Pie. There’s quite a bit of bloatware on the device, including a ton of third-party apps like Gaana, Amazon Shopping, Facebook, etc. The phone comes with a system-wide dark mode, which is also force applied to apps that don’t natively support it. As a result, dark mode looks crudely implemented on some apps, and there is no way to turn off dark mode for specific apps.

One of the biggest USPs of the Vivo U20 is the beefy 5,000mAh battery at the core, which supports 18W fast charging. Vivo is also providing a fast charger in the box which is a plus. In our video loop battery drain test, the smartphone lasted 18 hours, which is a good result.

The competition

The Vivo U20 starting price in India has been set at Rs 10,990 and as such, the phone goes up against the likes of Redmi Note 8  and Realme 5s. The Redmi Note 8 (review) is retailing for Rs 9,999 right now and offers a 48MP primary rear camera, more optimised software and a Type-C port with 18W fast charger provided in the box. However, it features a slightly underpowered Snapdragon 665 processor and smaller 4,000mAh battery.

The Realme 5s also starts at Rs 9,999 and offers a 48MP quad-camera setup on the back, but comes with a lower HD+ screen resolution, Snapdragon 665 SoC and no fast charging support.

Bottomline

The Vivo U20 is without a doubt a valiant attempt from the brand to take on the budget segment. However, at its asking price it will be up against some serious contenders from the likes of Xiaomi and Realme. What works in favour of the U20 is the latest Snapdragon 675 SoC, which offers better performance than its peers and should appeal to those who want a powerful phone in the budget segment.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Vibrant display
  • Smooth performance
  • Massive battery with support for fast charging
  • Decent cameras

What doesn’t:

  • Uses outdated micro-USB port
  • Cluttered software
  • System-wide dark mode is glitchy

Photos by Raj Rout

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